My niece just celebrated her 13th birthday. (I'll pause a moment to let that sink in.) I had the amazing privilege of holding my niece the day after she was born.
I was on a whirlwind two week trip to the US. It was my one and only flight on the aircraft I worked so hard to keep up in the air. We were trading in a 40-year-old plane for a newer 30-year-old model. Since one of my best friends was Crew Chief, I was able to charm my way onto the flight.
First stop on the trip was Jacksonville, FL where I took possession of my shiny new 1995 Harley Davidson XLH Deluxe. Black and oh, so shiny. Drove the bike to the boatyard in Charleston, SC so they could ship it back to Spain. Picked up a rental car and drove through the night to my sister's in Virginia. No member of my family even knew I was in the country. Fortunately my brother-in-law hadn't purchased his shotgun yet!
The births of my nephews and niece mark major milestones in my life. The eldest nephew was born when I was in bootcamp and the youngest just months before my wedding. The week after my niece's birth I had a my first date with the man who would turn out to be the love of my life. I'd call that a fairly major milestone.
My parent's were also in the country for a few weeks during that trip and we were all able to spend time together as a family--a slightly rare occurrence. The three of us went shopping--my mom, my sister and I--and I bought a dress for the Christmas party I was attending the day after I returned home. I also found a tie for my date since he had informed me he didn't own one. With one last stop at the hospital to tell my sister and brand new, red headed niece goodbye I left and drove on up north. Spent the afternoon with my grandparents--the last time I'd see Gramps--and continued on up to Maryland to catch the flight back to Spain.
The XO (Executive Officer) of the squadron flew the new plane home. When the wheels stopped rolling he strolled past me down the aisle.
"How'd you like the flight, Mac?" he asked as he clapped me on the back.
"Honestly, Sir? I've had better landings." I replied as I clutched my full airsick bag.
See, there's that issue with authority again. I never was able to grasp and adopt the concept of respect simply due to one's rank. Not exactly a shock I didn't make a career out of the Navy. I think it was more of shock that I made it four years without my mouth getting me into trouble.
So it wasn't really a romantic date--there were actually five of us. It was our squadron's Christmas party. A rare occasion to clean the grease out from under our fingernails, get all dressed up and "purdy". Four of us girls decided to invite one of our male friends from a different command. Though I suspect it was a ploy to get the two of us together since shortly after the party I found myself alone with him. We had been friends for a while. But that night we became something more--though neither of us was willing, at the time, to put a label on this new thing.
The first time we met he didn't remember me. But that was okay. I was overweight, self conscious and, well...forgettable. My relationship history was fraught with abuse--mostly emotional, one was physical. I wasn't broken, but I wasn't whole either. Following that initial meeting I remember wondering what life would be like if someone like that were to be interested in someone like me. It made me think and re-evaluate who I was, where I was. He went off on a ship for six months. In that time I found that I was actually good at my job--even with being a girl in a male dominated field. I decided I was tired of being fat. I also discovered that I kinda liked who I was--just me. And when he returned and we met again--he remembered.
Thus began our tumultuous love affair. A relationship which had even our friends claiming doom and gloom--even after we stood in front of my dad (the minister) and promised to love and cherish each other until the cold, clammy hand of death ripped us apart. Apparently two strong willed, opinionated, passionate and stubborn people shouldn't attempt a serious relationship.
Next week we celebrate our 10 year anniversary. Guess we sure showed them.